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#1040903 - 07/14/04 02:14 PM How long do you need a teacher, forever?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
since almost everyone on this forum has a teacher or recommend to others to get a teacher, i become curious about how long you think you need a teacher for you piano skills, until you become a concert pianist (which i am sure is not the goal of the most) or until you stop playing some day?

i ask this question also because i have read the following from 'the Pianist's Problems (W.S.Newman)":
It has always seemed to me that, beyond the training in fine piano music, the guiding of the practice toward the day when the student can become his own teacher is the most important mission of the piano teacher. Working himself out of a job, as it were, the teacher should help the student meet his pianistic challenges untill eventually the student makes himself independent of formal teaching. Nor should the "eventually" go on too long. Just as some grown children can never quite free themselves of their emotional dependence on their parents, so some grown students can never quite trust themselves to forge ahead without instruction. If they leave one teacher, they must move on to another. (A more aggravated form of this amonaly is the student who insists that he must continue lessons in order to be made to practice, whether out of respect for the financial investment or fear of the teacher's displeasure.) The best thing in the world for such students, who are often very advanced in their skills and experience, is the working up and presentation of a recital entirely on their own, come what may.

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#1040904 - 07/14/04 07:12 PM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
HappyGoLucky Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/07/03
Posts: 295
Loc: Arlington, VA
Dear Signa,

Your question (and accompanying quote) really hit home with me. I "studied" piano from age 5 through highschool and had one teacher from age 5 through junior high (middle school) and then she told my parents that she could not teach me any more and they should find me another more "advanced" teacher. They did find a winner(a young man from Julliard) who had moved back to the midwest to take care of his elderly parents. His name was Vernon Gould -- he was an excellent teacher and I studied piano with him for 4 years. I was never talented enough (and lacked the desire) to try to aspire to become a professional pianist. I continued to play the piano off and on (but didn't own a piano of my own) for over 25 years. Then in September 2003 I purchased a grand piano and started really "practicing" again. It was like a miracle -- it all came back to me -- all those years of classical training. So -- at my advanced age -- I decided "It's now or never" and invited friends and neighbors to attend my "New Year recital on January 3, 2004" -- complete with printed programs, etc. It was such fun (I was nervous)-- but I was among friends and nobody threw rotten tomatoes. I've wondered -- Should I take lessons again? I really can't decide, but I can play fairly well and it brings me such enjoyment and I actually "practice" on my own -- always working on a new and slightly more difficult piece. I'm curious if any of you think I should find a teacher and "begin again." Sometimes I think I should. Other times I wonder "Why bother?"

Virginia (from Virginia)

#1040905 - 07/14/04 08:32 PM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
newpianoplayer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/12/01
Posts: 362
Should a student stay with the same teacher throughout his years taking piano lesson or is there a stage when it is better for the students progress to change teachers.
Please excuse me. I have to go practice

#1040906 - 07/14/04 08:41 PM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA

i feel you really. you were lucky enough to have some good teachers in your life which made you what you are today. if you need a teacher now to coach you a bit on your playing, go ahead. but i was surprised to learn (from many posts i read here) that some people have had a teacher/teachers for quite some time, and some seem just needing a teacher to rely on and to get motivated from and to work out some learning details. but i thought, if playing piano is one's goal, then one should have such a motivation to go on and to learn with or without a teacher, after all the goal belongs to the individual. maybe with a teacher the process of learning such would be shorter or easier, but eventually the result is solely yours and only yours, not your teachers or any aids you may rely on along the way.

thanks for your great story, and hope you enjoy every bit of your playing!

#1040907 - 07/14/04 10:25 PM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
mshattuck Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/04
Posts: 61
Loc: Poznan, Poland
that is awesome about your personal recital. i posted something asking what people desire to do with their piano-playing "skills" in the future and that's exactly what i was looking for. it scares the socks off me to think about playing for a group of friends...but i guess it's something to aspire to down the road.

on the teacher front, my comment would be to mix it up. for example, i studied trombone performance at northwestern university and seem to remember that every instrument studio had at least a couple teachers. we would study primarily with one instructor but have lessons at least once a month with the other. that way we were getting input from more than one source and learning from both of their experiences, etc.

so, if it's possible, i would recommend trying to get fresh opinions and direction from time to time just to keep things fresh. of course the frequency would depend on the individual's taste (once a month...once every other month, etc).

#1040908 - 07/15/04 07:27 PM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
HappyGoLucky Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/07/03
Posts: 295
Loc: Arlington, VA
mshattuck -- The whole secret to recitals, I believe, is whether or not it is YOUR recital as opposed to "your piano teacher's recital"? Know what I mean? I had terrific teachers -- but when it came to the annual "RECITAL" (all caps!)-- my teachers had definite ideas about "balancing" the program, making sure that all composers were covered, etc. I grew up absolutely HATING piano recitals, because I could never play what I wanted to play. I remember growing up in the Midwest and wanting to play Schumann's "The Happy Farmer" because at the time (I think I was about 10) -- I had finally mastered "the left hand" -- plus everyone I knew was a farmer. My teacher said "NO -- it is too easy for you -- and stuck me with some horrid piece that I have repressed.
Why is it that Recitals always conjure up sweaty palms and solemn marching up to the piano bench?
I can tell you -- when I was finally old enough to not give a D*** -- and gave my "own" recital, playing exactly what I wanted to play for people I knew and loved -- it was an entirely different experience. It was a blast! I served fancy cake and champagne. Believe me -- it is much different giving your own recital than it is playing in your piano teachers' recitals. I want to thank you for your comments -- I don't want to get into a rut -- and mixing it up would keep the musician inside sharp. (no pun intended) :rolleyes:

Virginia (from Virginia)

#1040909 - 07/17/04 05:26 PM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
I am quoting 2 more paragraphs from the Newman's book which immediately follow the paragraph I've quoted above. I really want to share this with everyone here, especially every beginner.

Now, all this is not belittle the absolute necessity of the teacher in the training of the pianist; nor to underestimate the time this training takes, or the need for meticulous supervision, or even the value of outside criticism throughout one's musical career. The purpose here is to suggest a basic line of procedure in our teaching: help the student to help himself. Certainly, like the parent with the child, the teacher himself can be responsible for the student's dependence. He can, for example, write in the student's fingering, demonstrate his rhythms (only too often teaching them by rote), or dictate his own interpretation until it is he and not the student who learns the piece! The student who is placed more on his own will err and he will show bad taste, of course. But he will be learning in the best way, by experience. And it is in furthering that experience that the teacher should figure. From the very start, the teacher should be the good counselor who questions the fingering, or the rhythm, or the interpretation that the student brings in. and who suggests the further possibilities from which the student chooses.

Only in the way will the student develop the creative imagination, the self-criticism, and the confidence that he must have when he is ready to carry on alone. And only in this way will the student become a complete musical personality in his own right, with the courage and independent judgment to give full expression to his own musical feelings. Indeed, only in the way will he develop the wholehearted interest that a sine qua non of effective learning. ...

#1040910 - 07/17/04 08:43 PM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
HappyGoLucky Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/07/03
Posts: 295
Loc: Arlington, VA
Dear Signa,

Thank you for sharing those paragraphs. Alot of wisdom there......

Virginia (from Virginia)

#1040911 - 07/18/04 12:11 PM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
Virginia, you're welcome. i know your keen experience makes you understand fully what i was trying to present in here, and i hope others would benefit from the wisdom too.

#1040912 - 07/26/04 01:44 PM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
Cindysphinx Offline

Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
I do think there is value in getting input from someone new at times, although I deeply value the long-term relationship I have with my teacher and could never change.

There is a compromise, though. Remember back when I mentioned the "Adult Piano Students' Forum" in the D.C. area? They have master's classes, and they had one recently. My teacher and one of her adult accomplished students attended. The way it worked was that some great piano teacher came and spent the afternoon with the group. Each student came with one piece they wanted to work on, and the teacher gave them pointers and input. Everyone watches everyone else's lesson, so you learn lots that way.

I asked my teacher about the best sort of piece to bring to that sort of session. She said that opinions vary, of course, but she thinks it best to bring one piece you can play well but that you haven't brought up to performance level yet. That way you won't be so very wedded to the way you have decided to play it.

Sounds like valuable training, but I'm not ready for that just yet.

Cindy -- who would shake like a leaf if she had to do a lesson in front of a room full of people
Vote For Cindy!!


#1040913 - 07/27/04 08:57 AM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
Pianogirl88 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/30/04
Posts: 16
Loc: Canada
Whenever I have a piano recital my teacher always allows me to choose the pieces. He brings out the good and the bad but coaches rather than demands. He tells me if he likes a particular piece more than another but in the end it is up to me. I choose based not on the difficulty of a piece but on the level of interpretation I can handle. If I want to play a piece from a book which I've long since finished I'll do it just because I have a connection with that piece of music.

#1040914 - 07/27/04 09:29 AM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
HappyGoLucky Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/07/03
Posts: 295
Loc: Arlington, VA
Esther Sue -- You are really really fortunate to have a teacher that gives you this much freedom of choice at recital time. I hope other teachers read this -- gosh, maybe we should have posted this on the Piano Teacher's Forum.

Sometime ago, the host of this website, (I don't know his full name so I'll just call him "Frank" like others do) ... Frank asked if people looked at other forums. Until that time I had only looked at Piano Forum -- now I visit them all and it's great how much I'm learning. Some of the tips I've gotten on the Pianist Forum are fantastic.

Virginia (from Virginia)

#1040915 - 07/27/04 01:24 PM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
Pianogirl88 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/30/04
Posts: 16
Loc: Canada
Virginia, I know I'm very fortunate to have the teacher I do. I've had the same one almost as long as I've been taking piano although he didn't start me off. He did introduce me to the wonderful world of classical music and now our friendship has expanded beyond piano. Its nice to know your teacher's family and be able to relate to the goings on of their everyday life.

#1040916 - 10/23/04 08:23 PM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
James L. Taylor Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/22/04
Posts: 7
Loc: Towson, Maryland
Nearly 4 yrs at learning the piano at 73 (now) and I do far far better myself thank when I had a teacher. I only play for my enjoyment and really do not expect to become a pro. I'm just happy to play for myself. Seems like there are not too many people that want to sit and listen. They would rather gab on the phone. If you play so well then that should be sufficient. I really wish I had a friend who would sit with me and we could talk and play piano.

#1040917 - 10/24/04 10:56 AM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
There are plenty of professional musicians who still have piano teachers, but they are no longer "teaching" the piano. Instead, they are more like coaches, who can point out very specific areas of a piece and suggest alternate approaches or point out errors. Obviously at some point you have "learned" to play the piano, so the instruction moves to interpretation, repertoire selection, etc. It's more of a collaboration than "instruction."

I know several pianists who have instructor/coaches they routinely go to, but not on any schedule (as in, not every week or two, 9am on Wednesdays). Instead they call up and book some time when they want some advice, feel the need, while picking out recital pieces, etc.

And yes, the best teachers for beginners are not necessarily the best teachers for later on. You may well discover a need to switch at some point, regardless of your personal feelings for your current instructor.

#1040918 - 10/25/04 09:54 AM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
i like the idea of having a coaching teacher, which at some point i would consider.

#1040919 - 10/25/04 01:16 PM Re: How long do you need a teacher, forever?
tk Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/04
Posts: 695
Loc: Los Angeles County
Great topic, signa.

I am glad that Nina brought up the "coach" thing. As soon as I read that I knew it was the best way to describe my relationship with my current teacher.

As a kid I took lessons for a total of about 8 years. I had 5 different teachers during that time! (My family moved around a lot) Obviously, I did not have much consistency. But, I learned enough to progress to an intermediate/early advanced level. So, when I decided to buy a piano and start playing again, I did not originally plan to take lessons. But, when I purchased my piano, I worked out this deal with the owner of the store (which is really a side business--the main business is a music "academy") for me to take lessons with the classical teacher of their academy. She's an accomplished pianist and formally studied music through I believe the graduate level. I could never expect to have the wealth of information about music that she or anyone who formally studied through higher education has. So, she knows intricacies, history, techniques, nuances about pieces that I would otherwise have no clue about. I rely on her for exactly what Nina mentioned: pointing out very specific areas of a piece, suggesting alternate approaches, pointing out errors, interpretation, and repertoire selection.

My lesson situation works out perfectly for me. I typically have a 45 minute lesson once a month--twice at the most. Basically, I come in whenever someone else cancels during a time that fits my schedule. I don't feel I need to commit to a lesson every week, but I do feel that I need as mshattuck said--a fresh opinion--from time to time while working on a piece on a primarily individual basis.

Virginia--cool idea with your recital. Sounds like it was a lot of fun and very enjoyable--exactly the opposite of the recitals I used to participate in as a kid! \:\)



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